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Were the Greens Defeated?

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

12 Feb 2010 20:1352 Comments
viva-green.jpg[ opinion ] February 11, the thirty-first anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, finally arrived. Many people had high hopes that the day would represent another major advance for the Green Movement. A glance at the Persian websites indicated that some people seemed to believe the Islamic Republic itself would be toppled. In their view, the only thing that the people had to do was show up in the streets and demonstrate.

Alas! The envisioned triumph did not happen, and it was clear to some, this author included, that it was never likely. Why? For several reasons:

One was that just as the Green Movement gains experience, so also do the hardliners. They have learned, based on the demonstrations that took place on both November 4, the anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover, and December 27, the Day of Ashura, that saturating the streets of Tehran with security and plainclothes intelligence agents, as well as the Basij militia, is effective at preventing the formation of large clusters of Green supporters and undermining their capacity to demonstrate. This tactic was successfully utilized on February 11. Wherever Green supporters did try to gather, they were beaten up badly by the security forces.

It would have deeply embarrassed the hardliners if Green supporters had successfully staged large-scale demonstrations on the anniversary of the day that brought to power the very political system that they always claim is supported by the Iranian masses. It should have been clear that they would do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.

Indeed, the hardliners took unprecedented steps. They saturated Azadi Square--where Iran's president has always delivered his speech on the anniversary of the Revolution--and the streets around it with their own supporters on Wednesday night, February 10, to prevent protesters from getting close to the area. Tens of thousands of people were bused in for this purpose from cities and villages around Tehran.

The hardliners also installed loudspeakers along a corridor extending from Imam Hussein Square in east Tehran to Azadi Square in the west, and used them to broadcast revolutionary and religious slogans, disrupting the efforts of Green supporters to organize effective protest chants.

The harsh crackdown on the demonstrators was clearly intended to terrify people and make them think twice before they participate in any future demonstration. The hardliners have made it clear that the photographs and video images taken of Green supporters during the demonstrations would be used against them in court. These actions follow the jailing of thousands of people, including dozens of reformist leaders, journalists, and human rights advocates; the murders of at least a hundred, including the prominent assassinations of Ali Mousavi, Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, and physics professor Masoud Ali-Mohammadi; and the systematic infliction of rape and sodomy on many young people.

The demonstrations thus did not take place the way many had envisioned. Make no mistake, though. A large number of Green supporters did show up, as evidenced by their many clashes with security forces, not just in Tehran but in Esfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, Ahvaz, and other cities, as well. Still, the more idealistic supporters of the Movement had envisioned the Revolution's anniversary in a very different way. So, does the way things turned out imply defeat for the Green Movement? Has it been driven underground? I believe not.

First, the very fact that on the thirty-first anniversary of the Revolution, the hardliners had to saturate Tehran and other large cities with security forces just to prevent peaceful demonstrations by the opposition represents a significant victory for Green supporters. This is the day when the people are supposed to come out freely and celebrate the establishment of the political system that the hardliners claim they support, and yet there was an unofficial state of emergency, with tens of thousands of security forces patrolling the streets.

I was reminded of the days following September 11, 1973, when Salvador Allende, the socialist president of Chile, was overthrown in a coup planned by the CIA and carried out by the Chilean military. In those days, the capital of Santiago was similarly saturated by the military, people were beaten en masse, thousands were jailed, and many were killed or disappeared. (The 1981 movie Missing, written and directed by Costa-Gavras, recounts these events.)

So, what kind of victory could this represent for the regime? As Mousavi said on January 1, in his statement number 17, addressed to the hardliners,

Suppose through arrests, violence, shutting people's mouths, and closing newspapers and means of mass communication that calm and silence return to the society. What are you going to do about the fact that people's judgment of the political establishment has changed? What are you going to do about the destruction of its legitimacy? What are you going to do about the rebukes of the world and its astonishment about the degree of violence that the government has used against its own people? What are you going to do about all the unsolved economic problems that, due to the utter incompetence of the government, continue to worsen? On what basis can you claim the competence, national consensus, and effective foreign policy necessary to remove the shadow of foreign powers demanding ever more concessions?

In short, this was not a victory, but a defeat for the hardliners. Eight months after the rigged presidential election of June 12, the Green Movement is alive and well. Indeed, the hardliners were sufficiently terrified of the Movement that they deployed anti-riot forces to surround the headquarters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (there were even reports that he and his family had been spirited away to a secret location); the broadcast centers for national television and radio, the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic; and many other government institutions. Mousavi was forcefully prevented from participating in the demonstrations and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, was assaulted, as were Mehdi Karroubi and former president Mohammad Khatami.

These events should teach the supporters of the Green Movement a few lessons. First, the Movement needs effective organization and leadership. Some have claimed that people can simply inform each other of demonstration plans via Facebook, Twitter, and other such means. But, as events on Thursday, as well as the Day of Ashura, demonstrated, such ideas are naïve and impractical. Even the hardliners recognize the importance of organization and, hence, expert organizers. This is exactly why Behzad Nabavi, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Mohsen Aminzadeh, and Mohsen Mirdamadi, political activists for decades who have proven to be excellent organizers, have been jailed since soon after the election. In fact, according to Nabavi, their arrest warrants were issued a few days before the election.

A related observation is that Mousavi and Karroubi were too cautious. They did not provide any specific plans. It is not enough to call on supporters to participate in the "celebration" of the anniversary of the Revolution. Even important foreign-based pro-Green websites, such as Jaras, were overly restrained. They called on people to dress conservatively and even chant some of the same slogans favored by the hardliners.

Although some may disagree, the question of leadership has, in my opinion, largely been settled. Mir Hossein Mousavi is the leader of the Green Movement. But he needs to be in more contact with the people, speak to them more frequently, try to organize various events by giving Movement supporters specific suggestions and instructions, and set aside his caution. It is not enough to issue statements in reaction to external developments. Karroubi, Khatami, and others also play important roles. Together with Mousavi, they must develop a unified voice and common positions. As Mousavi has said repeatedly, they must agree on a "minimum set of demands," speak about them forcefully and often, and avoid airing their differences.

Another crucial lesson is that the tactics for confronting the hardliners must change constantly. They must be dynamic. If the same tactics are routinely employed, the hardliners adapt and learn how to defuse them, as Thursday's events clearly demonstrated. The tactics must also become more sophisticated. The most effective are those that target the economic interests of the hardliners, and make it more difficult for Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei to govern.

The final lesson is that the struggle for democracy in Iran is a war of attrition, not a swift "shock and awe" campaign, a marathon, not a sprint. Because the Islamic Republic has degenerated into a military junta, and because a military force always loses a war of attrition to irregular forces--that is, the people--the Green Movement and its leaders need to be patient, carefully analyze developments, and develop realistic and achievable goals that advance the cause of democracy.

There is a new dawn in the struggle of the Iranian people for democracy and the rule of law. The Green Movement must develop the necessary organization and adjust its tactics dynamically in order to make further progress during this turbulent era.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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I think we do have another sofa strategist here, if the author is under any illusion that 22nd was supposed to be a final push he is very wrong and he is judging the whole situation wrong. The tactics to prevent demonstrators forming up have been in use since summer. To sit and talk of defeat is easy, it is even easier to write prescription "dynamic tactics". And to talk of defeat! You know I am sick and tired of people like you who are "too good to get dirty" and just give their high and mighty opinion about everything. go get a life!

Ali / February 13, 2010 11:50 AM

It may be easy to declare a victory of the greens from a far-away place like L.A.
The truth still remains. The reformers were overwhlemed by the government supports in their number and intensity. More tellingly, a number of otherwise reformers were in Dizin or Tochal, enjoying a five day weekend.
C'esr la vie in Tehran, whether you like it or not.

ka / February 13, 2010 3:09 PM

I don't see this as a "war of attrition" or a "marathon".

This is an undercurrent of dissent, nothing more and nothing less.

Bahman 22 1388 revealed a bubble that has burst. Here at TB and elsewhere, I've expressed myself as a skeptic based on being a stickler for accuracy. Well, that skepticism has now been demonstrated to be well founded.

Life goes on in Iran. Domestic politics and foreign policy is in the hands of the IRI poltical establishment, where it has been before and since the June 2009 election:


What's the moral of the this whole story? Hard data and accepted political/social science should never be ignored in favor of emotion and wishful thinking.

That's the lesson learned (reminded) from the 2009 election and 22 Bahman.

Pirouz / February 13, 2010 4:12 PM

"a military force always loses a war of attrition to irregular forces--that is, the people."

Since when?

Hugh, III / February 13, 2010 5:17 PM

Pirouz, I agree with you "Domestic politics and foreign policy is in the hands of the IRI political establishment, where it has been before and since the June 2009 election" and i too would like to read more about that reality. The diaspora seems to think that life has come to sudden HALT in Tehran and everybody's only planning for protest.

And I don't think this is a marathon. A marathon needs at least two slightly equal partners. The IRI has managed to crush dissent remarkably well in society as a whole, and while there are certainly centers of dissent, they are grossly exaggerated ... I think the greens need to be much more DIPLOMATIC, and 22 Bahman is a perfect example of where the virtual world and the expat community circulates their visions of sugar plum fairies on TV stations … and they have become liability for the movement. When you raise expectation above the real capacity of a movement , that only results in disappointment and despair.

BUT, I really don't agree with that worldpublicopinion poll, and I don't think it can be the basis of your arguments. If you argue w/o the poll, it would be much more convincing, at least to me. The IRI IS conducting business as usual, but it also HAS morphed into a military junta, and I think that too is a "hard data and accepted political/social science".

Pedestrian / February 13, 2010 6:16 PM

Hi everyone,
Why do you get upset with each other and even the author of this article. You don't have to agree with every word of it, but you can sure find a lot of truth in what this article tells you.
We all know what a limited resources are available for the greens in Iran. We all know how this regime will go in order to hold on to power. Don't we?
22 Bahman shows this government will do what ever it takes to silence opposition, at the same time the regime is very aware of the fact that in facing the people they have to guard their back with arms.
But the greens have to stick to the goal. Define the goal and move forward. To do so they need to be organized. To reach victory they have to walk the path and stop talking about it.
For the day we are all witnessing democracy in Iran.

gheseh2000 / February 13, 2010 6:48 PM

@ Pirouz

"What's the moral of the this whole story? Hard data and accepted political/social science should never be ignored in favor of emotion and wishful thinking."

Sorry Pirouz, I think you are the one with the wishful thinking. You are judging a highly asymmetrical situation in a symmetrical manner.

Hard facts you say? You don't believe Tehran was filled with thousands of anti-riot police and plain clothed agents? Why was this necessary? What about the hundreds of huge buses which was parked on so many roads? (Lots of videos and a satellite photo clearly showing this). There is not enough people in Tehran to fill Azadi square?

You also seem to neglect that the regime had since ashura to plan 22 Bahman, with all the money, equipment and communication routes they needed. What did the protesters have?

Why did green protesters show up, if there were millions of regime supporters on the streets of Tehran?

Mr. Pirouz (Marandi?), you are only fooling yourself.

Hypothetical question:
What if there were thousands of riot-police to beat and arrest regime supporters, how do you think Tehran would have looked like?

Heidar / February 13, 2010 6:51 PM

The greens are defeated! It is Gods will. Praise be to Him. The greens movement is dead.

Radical_Guy / February 13, 2010 7:35 PM

The original revolution took fron Jan '77-'79 (2+yrs) and recycled its leaders from Baktiar, Bazarghan, Bani Sadr to Ayatollahs. We are are in month 6.

This defeat revealed that the regimes intelligence capabilities are stone age; 12 hrs before the protest they still couldnt guage the opposition's turnout and erred on the said of busing in 1 million security guards; a 10:1 ratio to protesters.

This defeat is good b/c it will force out current impotent opposition leadership and radicalize the movement to 'unconventional' tactics which is unavoidable.

The silver bullet of the '79 revolution which coopted facilities of sympathizers such as bazaaris, university students, business offices, travel agents to allow their telex, telecopier, cable machines and phones to be used to send out a tidal wave of rumor, disinformation, propoganda message transmissions.

The national phone company had bills of tens of millions of dollars uncollected in '78. ITT, EDS, ATT saw the increase in transmissions of 10,000%; and had hundreds of "donated" hardware sets that was unaccounted for as well.

Not to mention the millions of Khomeini's sermon cassettes that were copied with SONYs & Philips high speed cassette technology. Perot's secret mission to get out his EDS unit was no fluke.

The regime is aware of how technology can create giants of small movements. Technology was their trojan horse...but that horse has two bellys.

Shah / February 13, 2010 8:06 PM


The latest WPO report includes polls by WPO (managed by PIPA), GlobeScan (which is based in Canada) and the University of Tehran.

What is particularly striking is the consistency of these polls taken by three completely different entities, inside and outside of Iran.

Ped, you can disagree over whether the results are truly representative of the Iranian electorate, but you can't disagree with the hard data itself. If you do disagree with the issue of representation, you're going to need to explain why in rational-or better yet- empirical terms.


To a certain extent, Iran's recent law enforcement efforts are not unusual. The IRI government considers the situation a matter of national security. They sincerely believe they are under threat of a foreign sourced color-type coup. When a government is confronted with a threat to its national security, it acts accordingly. Compare the actions of the US government following 9/11/01. That was considered a threat to national security. Do you remember the massive deployment of law enforcement in major US cities the following year, on 9/11/02?

Yes, there are multiple documented cases of excessive force employed by Iran's law enforcement. This is a comparatively unsophisticated force, inexperienced in crowd control management compared to Western law enforcement agencies, which have had decades to hone their skills as such. By comparison, in some respects, Iran's law enforcement standards are comparable to American practices during its own experiences with an anti-establishment movement, with one notable exception- Iran's less-lethal force policy, in effect following the initial protests in June:


Anonymous / February 13, 2010 8:57 PM

(That last comment was by me, Pirouz. Hopefully it wasn't lost without my name provided in the appropriate field.)

Pirouz / February 13, 2010 8:59 PM


Thank you.


It all depends on how victory is defined. No, the reformers were not crushed by the hardliners. As I said, the very fact that on the anniversary of the revolution Tehran is saturated by the military, intelligence, Basij, and so on just to prevent peaceful expression of dissent only goes to show the depth of the crisis.

As I have emphasized many many times, the hardliners do have a social base, albeit a narrow one. And I never subscribed to the idea that 22 Bahman was a day of victory for the Greens. In fact, I remained totally silent about it.


You have not proven anything. You simply rant, in my opinion.

Hugh, III:

How many examples do you want? The imperial army of the Shah against the people, Apartheid regime vs people, Romanian army vs people..... Or you want examples of a foreign military force against the people of the occupied country? There are too many of them.


It was only the Iranians in exile that made 22 Bahman a do or die day. Those who live in Iran, and people like me who are in contact with them never believed this.

Radical Guy:

The news about the death of the GV is greatly exaggerated.

Muhammad Sahimi / February 13, 2010 9:10 PM

mousavi is NOT the leader, he is one of Islamic Republics Goons....people will not be fooled

arash / February 13, 2010 9:43 PM

@ Pirouz:

I wonder that you don't mention that only 48% of people contacted responded to the WPO poll. And everyone knows that with the paranoiac climate in Iran -where lines are monitored -the less than half who did respond probably self-censored out of fear that some stranger is calling from 'Amreeka.'

So please, save your BS stats for Press TV.

Amir / February 13, 2010 10:12 PM

@ Pirouz:

@ Pirouz/Marandi:

"The IRI government considers the situation a matter of national security."

That is not a foreign-backed plot; its simply the truth that people want AN & SL the f**k out.

The junta regime knows if it allows free assembly, Greens would outnumber the dwindling loyalist base several times over.

Google Earth can record the images in such a case, and we will see which side has more supporters.

Ida / February 13, 2010 10:19 PM

The one principle I keep in mind always whether it relates to Iran or any other country experiencing a period of political strife, is that arbitrary arrests, torture of prisoners and falsification of reality are not the natural order. When Russia scientists dreamed up their Stalinist version of genetics their theories held sway for a time in the USSR. Its the same with political, military theories of suppression that were tried out in the last century and still persist in some places. The effort to enforce the unenforceable is eventually self-defeating.

pirooz / February 14, 2010 12:08 AM

Pirouz, I think there are very valid points to be made regarding the sampling method. You know that in any poll, if the sampling method is erroneous, the results can be doubted. The biggest problem is WPO’s rationalization that this poll was carried out under “neutral” conditions. A telephone call from the United States, coming out of the blue, to a household in Iran, made amidst post-election conflict in which there is a presumption that phone conversations may be under surveillance ... Sitting in a living room anywhere in Iran, Tehran, Kerman, Mashaad, Ahvaz, have you ever watched your relatives talk politics on the phone? Have you see the way they do it? They way they duck questions and avoid discussion? And that's in IRI's average security environment, and before the crackdown of recent months.

I think your belief in the poll might come from the fact that you believe the current state in Iran to be a rational being making pragmatic decisions that are in the long term interests of the country. I don't. I believe in the military junta, and the brutal crackdowns. I don't think they are felt everywhere in society (as I said, life goes on), but they do exist. In such an environment, a phone poll is just irrelevant. But, if you don't believe that such an environment exists, than of course, you can keep referring to the poll.

"It was only the Iranians in exile that made 22 Bahman a do or die day" ... Professor Sahimi, that's exactly what I too meant.

Pedestrian / February 14, 2010 12:31 AM

Pirouz, if you hate the states so much why are you living there?
"American practices during its own experiences with an anti-establishment movement"
Please remind me when has that happened. Most of the protests against the Vietnam war weren't anti establishment movement, and nobody was shot dead during those protests unlike hundreds if not thousands in Iran.

Eitan / February 14, 2010 12:37 AM

On balatarin and other websites, there is a lot of disappointment expressed by the green, but they are already regrouping and looking ahead.

There is no question AN and KH.R. have the ability to muster enough bodies to fill Azadi Sq. Even a 20% support in the country of 70Mill, is a large number. Throw in millions of $$$ spent, 1000's of free buses, 100% control of media, free cake and drinks, and it shouldn't surprise anyone they got a large crowd.

They saturated the streets with IRCG troops, plaincloths, shock troops, bassij, masked guards, Anssari who would move on anyone holding the V sign or wearing green wristbands. Greens were there in large numbers. But they were not suicidal either. Hindsight 2020: they should have met Karoubi at a different sq., (announced too late) instead of trying to take over the govt's party at Azadi.

So the 31st Anniversary celebrations showed one thing: the islamic Revolution and Iran belongs to a shrinking population (old rural conservatives, Bazaris and freeloading govt' moocher Bassijis)

Every one else is out. And that is not sustainable for too long.

Some positive developement that further undermines the hardliners legitimacy: Karoubi's wife wrote a letter to Khamanai complaining that her 37YO son was detained, tortured and threatened WITH RAPE----in a mosque!!

Ahvaz / February 14, 2010 2:28 AM

I see Malaysia more and more like Iran. The government are getting more oppressive. It uses all it power to suppress and deny justice to the opposition. It is corrupt to the core. It is also unislamic what thes people are doing. If you want to know more about what the government does go to google.com and search "Malaysian News" and chekc the website out Malaysia Today and read present and past issue. The current issue is the main opposition party is frame for sodomy (his 2nd). At first by the previous PM and now the current PM because Anwar is a threat to the BN coalition. There were past issue for corruption where jet engine was stolen and sold, and now submarine they bought from France does not submerged. ..It gets more spicier... if you read at past issue we have the current PM involved in the blow up of a Mongolian Model using C4 and also his immigration entry record deleted but they could not shut up her friends...PBS should do a coverage of Malaysia current UMNO regime..

steve / February 14, 2010 4:30 AM

The only governments that fear their "governed" are ones based on repression and oppression of people's rights which the enlightened among us regard as universal.

That repressive regimes can last for decades is proven by the instances of the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, North Korea and Myanmar. You can only keep the lid on such a society as long as you maintain a coopted segment of society by dispensing government largesse, ideally to include the military, and employing censorship and strict policing of people's everyday lives who, though not recipients of windfall payments, are in one or more ways economically dependent on the government in power to live day-to-day.

The only people who laud these repressive societies, with their tight control of everything from what you are allowed to do for a living to what to wear and what to say before you urinate or as you breathe your last are those who benefit materially from them (the "more equals" among the masses of "equals"), or people who can't deal with unstructured environments, as for example our Muslim brothers in Western Europe who are woefully under equipped, both in terms of practical education and mindset, to succeed in a free society, where at once the individual is both free and required to make these choices for themselves. Those who can't seek out "authority figures" to decide for them. See North, Central and South American criminal gangs for plentiful examples of this type of person, who longs for the structure and sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself offered by a gang (or by analogy, perhaps, by the Basij or fundamentalist jihad groups?) or life in a maximum security prison.

Eventually the costs of maintaining strict control over all aspects of society bring about the failure of these oppressive regimes; the only matter is how long it takes, depending, among other reasons, on the revenue flowing to the government - when your country is awash in oil export revenue, controlled by the government, it takes longer to remove the figurative "bully" of a pup crowding out the others in the litter from the bitch's teat.

Homayoun / February 14, 2010 5:11 AM


Have you seen the Satellite view of the Azadi SQ minutes before Dr. AN spoke? There are about three kindergartens worth of kids and parents out to pick up pofac and sandis! So much for ORGANIZING but this so well organized and powerful government.

They had soldiers 8 deep along most streets and would beat anyone "not invited".

These are a bunch of hoodlums installed and supported by the outside powers for keeping the oil flowing and the putting the fear into the Arab minds so that they buy US, French, and British arms.

Without sandwiches and corn puffs, they would have had 37 or maybe 39 supporters, in addition to the basijis pretending to be the public.

The Green is alive and its support getting deeper, slowly, but surely. The satellite pictures will be everywhere and the "5 million supporters" propaganda will shrivel like a corn puff in a sweaty hand.

There were more greens on the streets than HIM's supporters in Azadi SQ.

Its not over until the fat lady sings.

nassim sabba / February 14, 2010 6:31 AM

That was an excellent analysis mr. sahimi. The Islamic Republic of Iran is in a desparate mode. Not only they have unleashed their army of police, special forces and basijis on the people but they have also employed their cyber army to spam every article and website that criticizes them. While they were able to deter the opposition from forming mass protests, the mere presence of thousands of security forces and handing out gift packages to those who were bused in to the Azadi Square showed the farce that has become of their celebration of IRI's independence day.
They can keep the opposition in check by brute force, but they cannot sustain their existence without tending to the people's grievances. It seems as if the people who order the brutal crackdown on the Iranian people have forgotten what the revolution was about.

bache mahal / February 14, 2010 7:13 AM

Sargord Pirouz aka Major Pirouz aka Mark Pyruz.

I have seen you recycling that bogus poll all over the Internet...Your website is full of military stuff..What is your connection to IRGC? why do you call yourself, Major??

winterolympic / February 14, 2010 7:50 AM

Reprint from Iranian.com
The google showsa sparse crowd:


It shows a sparse Azadi square at 10:47 am local time. More details and analysis links were kindly provided by Shifteh Ansari in the thread


Given these pictures and square footage of the Squar, it is very hard to imagine that square having more than 100k people in it. After all this preparation for months. It is very telling.

However, Azadi street that feeds into Azadi square looked full of people, and it was barricaded off. In fact, this year, for the first time ever, there were two layers of barricades separating the crowds from AN. So it is not even clear what the makeup of the crowd behind the barricade was. Please visit the above thread, it has a very telling video of inside Azadi square, where people are observed not even paying attention to AN's speech, and even one IRI flag with the IR emblem cut out. In the heart of the "supporters".

Repost of Shifteh Ansari's links:

1. You can see parts of the Google image of Tehran at 10:47 a.m. on February 11, 2010 (22 Bahman) here:


and here: http://friendfeed.com/vahid9/0e21cf75

2. Someone has videotaped the Google Earth image. It shows the
hundreds of buses which brought the so called "pro-government"
demonstrators to Azadi Square on 22 Bahman. You can watch it here:


3. You can see Google's image for yourself here:


4. This is Rah-e Sabz's crowd analysis of the image inside Azadi Square:


azadi square is 50,000 square meter (see azadi tower in wiki). that area is equal to 538,196 square feet. if each person fits into one square foot and if you subtract the area of the actual azadi tower and the area for the reporters and "khavas", then at most half million people can fit into the square. fair indicated that there is google pictures of the demonstrations. i haven't seen it myself (i searched). if he could tell us where to find the picture, then we can see if the crowd actually filled the square and if it spilled into the adjoining avenues that intersect the square.

sabz / February 14, 2010 7:52 AM

Homayoun: Excellent observations.

vildemose / February 14, 2010 8:06 AM


You like to repeat your worldpublicopinion poll a lot, as if it had any sort of validity. Do you think people in Iran, phoned by some stranger, would give their true opinion?

Since you like polls so much let me give you some poll scenarios that you can smoke on.

1. in a poll taken in Nazi Germany and occupied Poland in 1943, by phone, 0% said they practiced Judism.

2. In a poll taken in Iraq in 2002, by phone, 100% said they loved Saddam Hussain.


Pirouz, (half American son of a Korean War vet!! pfffft) smoke on these polls for a while and you will realize how rediculous your poll is.

Ahvaz / February 14, 2010 9:18 AM

I want to say something to the young people who maybe are upset from 22 Bahman. On 16th of Shahriver,1357 I attend in the first protest of Tehran agains Shah. Going to this protest was very dangrous and only brave people attent it but they were millions. the leaders invinted people to a new protest for 17th of Shahriver begin from Jaleh Squair at ten o`clock in the morning. Arived at 10/30 at Jaleh Squair I saw a lot of polices and a few people there with many killed or injured people.
We where very upset but hopefull.

hosain Feiz / February 14, 2010 11:24 AM

Can I ask the author a fundamental question? These "Greens" that you are talking about and talking to, who are they? Reading about 50 or so of their blogs and articles(both in Farsi and English), and talking to some of them in the last few days, my impression is this: If they read your piece, some will agree with some of your points, some will vehemently disagree, some will laugh at them, lots of them will ignore them as meaningless, and few will think you are spot on. Problem is a unified Greens group does not exist. A group of people unhappy with government, demonstrated, and it looked like a movement. That has for the most part dissipated, again since there is no unified goal, there never was one. The small sporadic numbers of them on Feb 11 was very real. This doesn't mean the unhappy people or anti government people do not exist. They do, like in any other country. However they will change things, gain more personal freedoms, within the laws of the land. They will change the bad laws too eventually, but not by street protests. That's what the majority will do. And the minority can achieve their goals as well, but with grass root activism, not with twitter. Finally it won't matter who wishes what outside Iran, Iranians are bright and resilient, and they will achieve reform themselves. I personally believe they did this even in this election, by electing Mahmoud Amadinejad. To me he is the most anti-establishment person in the Iranian government.

Roya / February 14, 2010 9:45 PM


Tehran Bureau is a political website dedicated to news and analyses about Iran. Anyone, whether in TB or elsewhere, has his/her opinion. I personally am not trying to convince anyone, but rather to express my analyses and ideas. People have full freedom to accept, reject, partially accept, partially reject, ignore, etc., my reportings or analyses.

But, it seems to me that you do not believe in the principle of reporting, analysis, etc., which goes against everything! It seems to me that you see this as a race to attract as many people as possible to agree with me. Nothing is further from the truth.

Having said, I believe that my analyses on this site, regardless of whether anyone agrees with it or not, has been correct all along, and the developments have confirmed them. Why?

Because I have always talked about (i) the necessity of having a recognized leadership from within Iran; (ii) the necessity of having minimum, but meaningful, demands that are commensurate with the reality, and (iii) avoiding slogans and demands that not only will not advance the democratic movement - Green or whatever - but hurt it.

Others, under the cover of "this is the most modern way of revolution and overthrowing the regime" have rejected having leaders or a limit to demands. Time has shown that they are wrong. The IRI will not be overthrown or reformed over night. This is a long struggle that must advance step by step. Radical demands wil lead to civil war and disintegration of the country.

The crowd on 22 Bahman did not dissipate, unlike what you say. They were there by all accounts, but were not allowed to group. There are now many videos that show that.

There are fewer people demonstrating overall, precisely because the demands have dramatically expanded without any relation with reality. As I said in a previous article, it is fundamental to agree on some minimum demands so that they can attract as many supporters as possible.

But, the Iranian community in the Dispora got ahead of itself and ahead of people in Iran, and created illusion of quick result. That was, is, and will be nonsense.

Even if the laws in Iran are going to change in a meaningful way and helpful to people, it won't happen unless there is enough social pressure. No dictatorship will relinquish any power or change itself, unless it is pressured.

So, the existence of a broad-based movement is fundamental to any meaningful change.

Muhammad Sahimi / February 15, 2010 12:38 AM

@ Prof. Sahimi

Well said, I agree.

Personally I hope that the pressure will cause a shift of power within the regime top, and by minimum change of the supreme leader (lets say Ayatollah Sanai for the sake of argument). By opening up for free press and freedom of speech, I think people will demand a referendum on the constitution and the removal of "velayat-e faqih". This will lead to a smooth change of the system and provide the basis for a lasting democracy.

But I am curious, do you think this is unrealistic?

Heidar / February 15, 2010 1:53 AM

We need a dose of military strategy, NOT VIOLENT.

We are an army. We already have them confused, and threatened.
Ironically, the result of not showing up en masse (to content for governorship) is no different than what a diversion tactic produces: valuable insight to opponents movements, infuriating opponent.

If we're countless, then we're formless.

Nader / February 15, 2010 2:01 AM

Yesterday, I downloaded an uncropped 13MB image of Azadi Sq. and its environs from the following site:


While attendance inside the square is pitiful, there are solid, unbroken masses of people visible on kilometers of roads and highways leading south, east and north from the square.

Eastwards on Azadi Street, large crowds stretch to the limits of the photo at the Yadegar Emam intersection.

Near the second skybridge on Ashrafi Esfahani, leading north from Azadi Square to Sadeghieh, a large column of smoke is rising.

Can someone shed light on who the people outside the square are? If government-sponsored, why haven't they made it into the badly underpopulated square, given that the satphoto claims to be from 10:47 AM? Was it too early or just standard Iranian tardiness? If the crowds are greens, why all this despondency about their failure to show up?

Ali from Tehran / February 15, 2010 3:46 AM

The crowd on 22 Bahman did not dissipate, unlike what you say. They were there by all accounts, but were not allowed to group. There are now many videos that show that.

There are fewer people demonstrating overall, precisely because the demands have dramatically expanded without any relation with reality. As I said in a previous article, it is fundamental to agree on some minimum demands so that they can attract as many supporters as possible.

But, the Iranian community in the Dispora got ahead of itself and ahead of people in Iran, and created illusion of quick result. That was, is, and will be nonsense.

Even if the laws in Iran are going to change in a meaningful way and helpful to people, it won't happen unless there is enough social pressure. No dictatorship will relinquish any power or change itself, unless it is pressured.

So, the existence of a broad-based movement is fundamental to any meaningful change.

Fantatic rebuttle...to an obviously tendentious individual.

Vildemose / February 15, 2010 5:08 AM

I am one of those who does not fear opposing opinions and does not resort to name calling and belittling. I am dismayed by illogical demands of a minority, which I have regularly found to be disconnected from the majority opinion in Iran. I tend to agree with Dr. Sahimi that meaningful and lasting changes are rooted in their broad base of support.

Like it or not, the government of Iran has considerable support - do not mistake this as support for the "governors". That is to say, this support may or may not translate to support for specific individuals. The poll certain people have referred to here (and others have refused to study carefully) is a reality on the ground in Iran. Granted that its interpretation is not simple, and it does not mean that the current regime (people) in charge of the government enjoy support from the majority. However, in my opinion, it is a clear indication that the green movement can make significant inroads if it focuses its messages on issues that have broad support from within Iran.

The leadership of the green movement in Iran must make a strategic decision to sever its demands from those (mostly from the outside) that demand the abolishing of the IRI in the form of an overthrow. The notion of "overthrow" in the classical sense is not operative in this situation. An accelerated evolution is operative. Changes to enforcement of free expression, election laws, communication will strip the current group of all its power in very little time.

However, I must add that the most significant threat to the democracy movement is emanating from the sanctions and the pressure crowd. I am frankly puzzled! The only conclusion I am left to draw is that the push is motivated by an agenda that is not good for Iran and Iranians.

jay / February 15, 2010 5:35 AM

Ali from Tehran:

I firmly believe that those that you are referring to are the Greens. Otherwise, they would have been let in to fill up the Azadi square. But, the fact that they were not means, in my opinion, only one thing: They were not "trust worthy" to the hardliners.

Muhammad Sahimi / February 15, 2010 6:08 AM

It was not a defeat for those who want regime change and secular democracy with freedom of speech and human rights guarantees. That is the 'green' revolutionaries.

It may have been a defeat for the REFORMER faction within the Islamic Republic regime who have been using the 30 years of dissent as an instrument for their ascend to power. The reformer faction are a clique that had enjoyed economic privileges during Rafsanjani and Khatami governments and who have lost those to the IRGC and their network during Ahmadinejad Presidency.

The Green Revolution is just beginning.

Maziar Irani / February 15, 2010 12:26 PM

The problem with the green movement is the not the green movement but their so called leaders. (Mousavi, Karoubi, etc). There is no reform in a theocracy and now in a military junta, that runs the country. These so called reformist leaders still support the regime that has murdered, raped and tortured thousands of people, lncluding friends and family members of these leaders.

These leaders are confusing the people by stating on one hand that they are on the side of the poeple and on the other hand believing that the Islamic Republic must be preserved.

The people of Iran are done with these regime. They don't want a supreme leader, and they don't want theocracy. What they want is a true democracy.

It is time for these so called leaders to make a stand and accept that this regime that they have served and supported for 30 years has been flawed from day one. Even if it means that they would be arrested themselves.

AG / February 15, 2010 4:23 PM

Yes, there were Basijs and security personnels everywhere on Bahman 22. Yes, there had been many people detained beforehand.
But I was really let down when the greens called their supporters to follow the "trojan horse" tactics. Come on! Did they really believe the mass would turn green at Azadi Square at a moment's notice?
This whole thing is supposed to be a popular dissent, and the popular dissent can only succeed when they get a great number of people on the street, overwhelming the regime supporters in number and intensity. And on this score, they failed miserably.
I do not particularly like the failure of the greens. But what happened is what happened. It proved that the otherwise green supporters have too many things to lose. And they are not in a mood to risk, for now. One revolution is enough for them.

ka / February 15, 2010 5:34 PM

From my perspective (non-Iranian with strong sympathies for the Green Movement), Professor Sahimi accurately summarizes the Movement's strengths and weaknesses post-22 Bahman, and the dilemnas currently facing both the leaders such as Mousavi and the mass of Iranian people seeking democratic change.

His prescriptions for the road ahead (development of an organization, coalescence around specific policies, more flexible tactics, etc.) certainly make sense. I imagine he would agree, however, that identifying the problems is easy, implementing the solutions under the current repression is difficult.

Strongest sympathies to all in Iran as they struggle to find their way forward. Professor Sahimi is surely correct that dismantling the Iranian dictatorship will take time and effort.

Martin Weil

Martin Weil / February 15, 2010 9:39 PM

Pirouz - the more I read your posts over the last months, the less credible I find them. In fact, with your reliance on a poll taken by phone calls into Iran, you are either a) completely ignorant or b) under the mistaken belief that you are clever enough to fool the readers. I have personally made these types of calls into Iran the last few months, and I (like most other rational readers apart from you) fully understand that Iranians are not speaking freely over their phones. You are uninformed and unpersuasive, a puppet spouting nonsense.

Prof Sahimi - thanks for the article, and I totally agree. Who in their right mind thought 22 Bahman would cause the sodomists Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to step aside? So the Greens gave the government weeks to prepare their defense - they telegraphed their plays. So what? There are many more days to come. Can the regime keep thousands of Basijis on the streets every day? Can it bus in the hungry and illiterate every day? Of course not. This was by no means a victory for the regime, and even if it were, you would call it Pyrrhic.

Since the article, the Bus Drivers Union spoke out in support of the Greens and in favor of civil disobedience. Can the regime beat, sodomize and imprison all the bus drivers? Which union will come next? Tactics like this bring hope.

Slowly but surely, things are falling apart....the center cannot hold.

np / February 15, 2010 10:21 PM

Prof. Sahimi:

Thank you for another in a string of insightful articles.

As a follow up to np's post about the regime not being able to control civil disobediance by bus drives because of their large numbers: Bus drivers presumably aren't as hard to replace with competent people drawn from the regime faithful as techniicians or engneers in the oil indusrty.

Could you comment on the percentage of oilfield & oil refinery workers who might be affiliated with the IRGC or Basij in any way?

Homayoun / February 16, 2010 2:27 AM

@Prof Sahimi

Thank you for your great article and insight. I completely agree that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

I sometimes watch Iranian satellite tv and Western media's coverage on Iran, and they both seem to want to jump on the revolution-will-happen-overnight bandwagon. This is a counter productive way of thinking and just opens the door to a huge disappointment.

Many people forget that the 1979 revolution took about a couple years of active protests to lead to the overthrow of the Shah. And before that, about 15 years of anti-Shah protests and activism by the people.

One thing I do disagree with though in regards to your article is, I don't believe that Mousavi is the leader of the Green Movement. Fact of the matter is, at the moment, I don't think the Green Movement has any real and true leader. I think a true leader of the Green Movement must have a consensus of support both within Iran and abroad.

I think the best leader of the Green Movement should be located outside Iran where he/she doesn't have to fear death and persecution and can state his/her ideas, opinions, and rallying cries freely. Similar to what Khomeini did in the late 1970s. Any potential leader in Iran will be quickly muzzled, as we have already seen happening since the June election protests.

A leader that's outside of Iran can actively and realistically create a cabinet and lay down the foundations of a free and democratic Iran. It could then get the backing of Western nations and even possibly get the funding it needs for any realistic regime change.

I believe the Iraqis did something similar in 2002 in creating a government-in-exile. The Green Movement needs to do the same. In my opinion, that is the next big step the Green Movement needs to take to be a legitimate force for change.

Yek Irani / February 16, 2010 5:00 AM

Sazegara, a few days before 22 bahman, suggested that greens should surround and "evaporate" the pro-gov't people. He even touched on the possibility that the IRCG rank and file may even turn on Ahmadinejad and actually arrest him at his speech!!!

It is this sort of nonsense that lead to deflating fealings that gripped many of us after 22 bahman.

For Khamanai, 22 bahman was disaster averted.

For greens it was deflation of overblown expectations, and back to the business of slow methotical growth.

Ahvaz / February 16, 2010 5:50 AM


The existence of any Apartheid regime or any theocratic ruling system is against the currents of history. Eventually they are going to crumble and vanish.

Yet, on the recent Iranian political issues there is no doubt Ahmadinejad won the election by a very wide margin, hence the conscientious people of Iran must accept the will of the majority in order to nullify the possible plots of the enemies of Iran.
Why he won? All reliable election polls such as TFT, GlobeScan, WPO and continuous polls of University of Tehran AND the actual election results have a Correlation Coefficient and with low RMS in a way those polls are hard to ignore or contradict.

If those polls are not acceptable (because Iranians always lie !!) The the software for Head-Count of GeoLab Images or Ortho-converted digital photos of the demonstrations in the cities and towns consistently prove Ahmadinejad’s win over Mousavi (with average ratio of about 60 to 35).

Ask yourself why the White House never accused Iran of “vote rigging”? Simply because WH has armies of experts in its service who would know, with 2 to 3% confidence level who is going to win or who actually won the Iranian election.

In Google Search type “iran daniel mcadmas” , “iran paul craig roberts” or “iran effort destabilize”. After evaluating the posts you might get an idea who was behind a phenomenally successful plot to demonize / de-legitimize IRI. Were they smoothing the path for another war? Probably Yes !!
Go to www.theraceforiran.com watch the World Public Opinion videos. they are very telling.

humanist / February 16, 2010 7:30 AM


insted of "... 2 to 3% confidence level..."


"..2 to 3% margin or error.."

humanist / February 16, 2010 7:34 AM

@ humanist

"It is astounding that such dangerous fanatics have control of the U.S. government and have no organized opposition in American politics."

"Why Bush Will Nuke Iran" by Paul Craig Roberts, 2006.

As to the rest of it, little has changed in the parochial argument which focuses on (often justifiably) overt-covert US/Israli policy; but not on internal Iranian dynamics as the cumulative affect of 30-31 years, or a broader view of the history of the Reform movement spanning back over a decade. Though, you may in fact know, and would like to elaborate how this was part of a US/Zionist plot as well - which has shades of condescension to it. How this drew not upon a long history of over a century of numerous movements, but was instead orchestrated in an office by George Soros or Bernard Lewis and neocon gang.

Critiques of Western hypocrisy and counterproductive foreign policy and covert acts have their place, but not at the cost of glossing over the IRI's internal track-record. And the trend I often see is the recognition, also correct, that Iran is caricatured in the MSM to produce hysteria (particularly regarding the nuclear issue). However; bending over backwards to overcompensate the other way and summarily dismiss human rights violations, et cetera (or blame the victim for forcing their hand, like in Seattle), or arguing by such deflections (insert Israel/Gaza here) is equally intellectually dishonest as the views you deride (though I do not accuse you of doing this, I merely speak of rhetorical habits I've observed).

I tend to take Pedestrian's view, as hers corresponds with all other material I've read concerning the sensitivity of such questions over the phone (which is hardly a phenomenon limited to the post-election events). And, even were I to accept the poll, I still opposed the Iraq invasion even after Bush was reelected (nor was I ever personally threatened by police truncheons in anti-war marches), and doubt the South would have polled well about desegregation during the American Civil Rights Movement. They do not have to accept repression and the abridgement of Constitutionally guaranteed rights, even if AN did win. That is an absurd demand which would follow your reductionist line of reasoning, respectfully speaking in my humble opinion - which is not above legitimate criticism itself, I am sure.


Professor Sahimi, thank you by the way for your many articles.

Kurt / February 16, 2010 6:53 PM


Your question about oil and gas field is an excellent one. Having been directly involved with Iran's oil industry for 25 years, I am ware of what the hardliners have done.

They have created a muslim association (anjoman eslami) and a paaygaah-e moghavemat basij (basij resistance base) in every corner of the oil industry. They have put a lot of people that they trust in charge of sensitive posts. And, AN has purged the oil ministry of a lot of good people.

But, I believe ultimately the fate of the
movement must go through economic aspects that hurt the IRGC. And, cretainly, the oil industry is the most important part.


Do yu have a link to what you say about Sazegara? I appreciate it if you provide one.

Muhammad Sahimi / February 16, 2010 6:59 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

Sazegara uploads a daily 10-minute 'Green' briefing video to the Internet, taped in front of a green background, which you can find on Youtube.

He suggested during one of these briefings (sometime between 2nd and 6th February) that Green 'bache-ha' plan to flood into Azadi Square covertly and overwhelm Ahmadinejad with a 'Ceaucescu-booed-in-Revolution-Square' shock during the course of his speech.

Ali from Tehran / February 16, 2010 9:07 PM

Dr. Sahimi,

Re link:
16 Bahman: at 4:02 and 6:50

17 Bahman 3:20 and 5:36

and 14th or 15th of Bahman, he mentioned possible arrest of AN by Sepah at 22 Bahman similar to Romania and Serbia. Can't be sure the date since his website has been hacked. But it is there. I heard it.

I have to note that I have liked a lot of what Sazegra has said in his videos in the past. Still I have difficulty trusting some one who created IRCG and ran the State Radio in the early 80's.

Ahvaz / February 16, 2010 10:45 PM

well said, Prof..

Prof sahimi, let me say, I think you have clarified your point of pursing democracy in Iran and opposing the Velayet-e- Faqih, very wll, you always cetegorise the establishment's tendacies toward totalitarianism.. you always categorise the voilent treatments of the protesters.

have you ever noticed that if the iranians were given a free environment they would have chosen a docmocracy -your favorite goal- over Islam.. I dout very much. my advice dont attach the whole iranians of your as you would have liked them to be.. they have their own believs, and way

as self-proclaimed politcal strategist for the so-called " the Greens" thanks for your long-term step by step marthoon.

some postive points are seen in your article " nationalistic feelings" and opposing street riots which are non sense.

Last note: Democracy is not just a method to ensure equality for every problem.. every system has its advantages and limitatations.

Shimon Press, the president of Israel has written in his book "failed project" - The New Meadle east- once a holly book for the Neo-cons and Israel lobbysts .. " twententh century has proved the moral ascendray of democracy and its social power" however, it is my firm belief that with all the immoral things for this decade, hardly conving now for democratic process to be method for bringing equality, peace and prosperity.

abdikadir / February 17, 2010 2:43 PM


Yes, thats' right, the "immoral things" you claim without examples various democratic societies have committed this decade make a convincing case to one and all and for all time, that totalitarian systems of government like military or theocratic dictatorships are the superior way of organizing the people of the world to bring about true equality, peace and prosperity. . . .

Oh, to return to the glory days of the caliphate, when Islam was ascendant, astride more of the globe than it was before and ever will be again, from the middle ages (as the West called it) all the way through the end of the Ottoman empire!

Now there was the pinnacle of man's time on earth - the notable achievements in science, medicine, womens' rights (those damned inconvenient and filthy bleeders, without whom Allah's own can't manage to create more of themselves, despite plenty of prayer, no doubt), true democracy (as long as you were a meek and obedient servant of the caliph, that is), peace (never mind all those wars started in that period over territory, or what religion was going to control it, for the true greater glory of Allah) and especially prosperity - no greater equality of wealth among the many has ever been matched, in that everyone but the caliph and his cronies was dirt poor, and the measure of a person's wealth was in how many chickens, goats or cows he owned - now, that's real wealth, nothing like the false prosperity that the modern, decadent and corrupt "Western capitalist" economic model provides, no, not at all, eh, my medievalist friend?

I suppose you are among the true believers waiting for your great leaders, Khamanei and AN, to usher in the apocalypse, destroying the world so that the hidden Imam will reappear and reward the faithful but punish the infidels?

Frankly, those who long for the afterlife where they will be serviced by 72 virgins would do well for all concerned to dispatch themselves, and only themselves, as quickly as possible so that the rest of us who desire to live well on earth can have the planet to ourselves.

Homayoun / February 18, 2010 2:52 AM